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Johnny Depp will play a pivotal character in the ‘Fantastic Beasts’ sequel

The Warner Bros. Pictures’ film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them doesn’t arrive in theaters until later this month, but its follow-up has already acquired a high-profile cast member.

Johnny Depp has signed on to play a featured role in the sequel to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, joining the first film’s star, Academy Award winner Eddie Redmayne. Depp will play Gellert Grindelwald, the notorious Dark Wizard whose friendship with Albus Dumbledore affected the course of both their lives.

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As initially reported by Deadline, Depp’s role will be introduced in the Harry Potter prequel film Fantastic Beasts, but only “if you look carefully.” His part in Fantastic Beasts, which is set 70 years before the events of the original Harry Potter franchise, is described as a “tiny turn.” The character will play a more prominent role in the second installment of the spinoff series.

“Grindelwald is an iconic character, so it was important to have someone who had that weight,” said producer David Heyman in an interview with The Leaky Cauldron when asked about the creative team’s decision to cast Depp. “There’s a reason why he has that weight. It’s because, you know, he’s a fine actor who makes unexpected choices.”

Portrayed by British actor Jamie Campbell Bower (as a young man) and Michael Byrne (as an older man) in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Grindelwald is a key figure in J.K. Rowling’s series of novels, but didn’t play nearly as important of a role in the films.

“Johnny Depp is a real artist,” added director David Yates. “He’s created several characters who have really resonated in our popular culture. He’s a really brilliant, brilliant actor. We were excited about seeing what he would do with this guy, the character. He’s fearless, he’s imaginative, he’s ambitious. We thought he would do something fun and special. So we went for him, purely on that selfish basis. We don’t care if he’s famous or not famous. We just know he’s interesting.”

Featuring a script penned by Rowling (her screenwriting debut), Fantastic Beasts casts Redmayne as magical researcher Newt Scamander, who must recover the fantastic creatures that escaped his care during a layover in New York in 1926. The story is based on the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them textbook used by Harry and the other students at Hogwarts School. A stand-alone book of the same name penned by Rowling was released in 2001.

The film will reportedly explore the vastly different dynamic between the magical world and the “No-Maj” (no magic) world in North America, after focusing primarily on the European regions of the world in the Harry Potter films.

Along with Redmayne, the cast of the film includes Ron Perlman, Katherine Waterston, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Dan Fogler, Colin Farrell, Jenn Murray, Jon Voight, Gemma Chan, Carmen Ejogo, and Faith Wood-Blagrove. Yates, the director of the last four installments of the Harry Potter franchise (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and the two-part Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows), returns to direct Fantastic Beasts, and is expected to direct the sequel as well.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them hits 3D, Imax, and standard theaters November 18.